Farmer-to-farmer extension approach in Malawi: a survey of lead farmers

It’s been noticed that farmers learn best from their peers, or those of a slightly higher social status*. The objective of the study described in the recent World Agroforestry Center working paper “The Farmer-to-Farmer Extension Approach in Malawi: A Survey of Lead Farmers” by Stanley Khaila, Frank Tchuwa, Steven Franzel and Brent Simpson, was to characterize the approach from the perspective of the farmers involved, usually called lead farmers. 

The authors summarize activities of lead farmers and support given to them, identify factors that motivate them, and assess the challenges they face. The study is part of a broader one examining farmer-to-farmer extension in Malawi, Cameroon and Kenya.

The study results reveal many positive aspects about the approach and implementation support that it receives in Malawi. Priorities for future development include such as improving the training of lead farmers and providing low-cost incentives to address their two main motivations for becoming and remaining lead farmers – knowledge and altruism. It is also important, say the authors, to highlight and reinforce the role that lead farmer programs play in improving gender balance in extension, both for increasing the number of women providing extension services and for improving women’s access to such services.

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The authors:

Stanley Khaila and Frank Tchuwa work for the Institute for Economic and Social Research (IfESOR), Bunda College, Lilongwe, Malawi.

Steven Franzel works for the World Agroforestry Centre, Nairobi, Kenya.

Brent Simpson works for Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA

Citation: Khaila S, Tchuwa F, Franzel S, Simpson S. 2015.The Farmer-to-Farmer Extension Approach in Malawi: A Survey of Lead Farmers. ICRAF Working Paper No. 189. Nairobi, World Agroforestry Centre. DOI:

This work was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Funding support for this study was provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) project “Modernizing Extension and Advisory Services” (MEAS, and the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets. 


* Feder & Savastano, 2006


Featured image: ICRAF/Sherry Odeyo , Flickr